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Father mourns loss of fianceé, two sons in Mississippi River drowning

“I loved her, and I loved our boys,” said Jattir Ragland. “That’s really all I have to say right now. The truth will come out. God will make certain that the truth comes out.”

Those are the words of a grieving father, who lost his family last Friday when his fiancée, Aisha Z. Fair, and her two children, were recovered from a vehicle pulled from the Mississippi River.

Charvon Lofton, 7, and Jattir Ragland Jr. were reportedly still in the black Jeep when it was recovered. Fair’s body was found on the muddy bank by a passer-by, who then called authorities.

The victims were Memphis residents. Their remains were found on the Arkansas side of the Mississippi River in Proctor, Ark.

Jattir Ragland Sr. and his fiancee, Aisha Z. Fair, during happier times.
(Courtesy photo)

Nothing is known for certain, that is, not until the investigation concludes, according to the Crittenden County Sheriff’s Office.

“This investigation is ongoing, and we have not put a label on it,” said Chief Investigator Todd Grooms.

That has not stopped speculation. It has been reported by local media outlets that the vehicle recovered Friday with two children inside and a young mother on the bank was intentionally driven into the Mississippi River. That is unverified, premature speculation, Grooms said.

According to the Crittenden County Sheriff’s Office, Fair was involved in an accident on Interstate 40, just west of the  Hernando DeSoto Bridge about 8:30 a.m. Friday. Witnesses report that her car struck an 18-wheeler’s trailer, which forced her off the road. Witnesses also said the car then turned left and went down the enbankment across a bicycle trail, accelerating into the water. It was one mile away from the scene of the accident.

“We are not verifying any specific details in this case because it has not been concluded,” Grooms said. “What I can tell you is that where the vehicle went into the water was a very difficult area to get to. We had to access the area on a bicycle trail called the Big River Crossing, and we had to use all-terrain vehicles, four-wheelers during the recovery operation.

“The Arkansas Fish and Wildlife assisted, and the U.S. Coast Guard sent over a boat,” he said. “A door from the vehicle that was found on the bank actually came off during the recovery. We used a chain to pull the vehicle from the water, and that’s pretty much all I can tell you. Several agencies took part in the recovery operation, and we are still investigating.”

The bodies were initially taken to the Arkansas Crime Lab, where Crittenden County Coroner William Wolfe examined victims. They were eventually released to a Memphis funeral home, N. J. Ford and Sons.

The aftermath

Aisha Fair’s mother, Cathryn Fair, said her daughter would have never “given up and taken the lives of herself and her children.”

“After three years with Kroger, Aisha was placed on medical leave to deal with mental issues,” Cathyrn Fair said. “And she was dealing with them. She would have never intentionally driven into that water.”

Dr. William M. Young, bishop and founder of The Healing Center Church and  Wellness Center, said whether Aisha Fair’s vehicle ended up in the river by accident or incident, “…the whole point is being missed. … the fact remains that two families are grieving, and mental issues were involved either way.”

Young has long been involved with helping the African-American community deal with mental health concerns. He pointed to a 33 percent increase in young adults and teens dealing with such concerns since 1999.

“(W)e must begin a real dialogue in the black community about mental help,” he said.

Services for Fair and her boys will be Saturday at New Hope Baptist Church, 2356 Elvis Presley Blvd. Viewing at the church is at 1 p.m. The funeral service will begin at 2 p.m.

Donations may be made to assist the family by calling 901-326-0859.

(For help with mental illness or depression, call The Healing Center Wellness program at 901-508-2539.)

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